Guest Blogger :: Heidi Brandow on the Power of Gratitude

In this post, Heidi Brandow continues our series on Gratitude vs. Grumbling by reflecting on what happens when we become people who pay attention to the activity of God around us as well as the character of God within others and boldly declare what we see. Here's what she writes:

For me the Thanksgiving holiday has always been about family.  Growing up we didn’t live near our grandparents, so it was one of the few times of year we were guaranteed a visit; as grandkids and their grandparents often do, we made the most of every minute. As the years pass, so the seasons of life bring change, but the strong traditions of family and Thanksgiving were written in my heart in indelible ink.

Six years ago I hosted our family Thanksgiving for the first time at my home because my mom wasn’t up to it.  We’d said goodbye to both of my grandparents within six weeks of each other and Grandpa’s funeral was earlier in the week.  It was a bittersweet time – a family together in loss yet celebrating a life well lived. It was a different Thanksgiving; broken, but beautiful. 

The next year I found myself in California – alone with my two small girls.  No house full of family. (No house for that matter!) No travel plans.  I was alone, sad, and, if I am honest, ungrateful. My answer to the “what are your plans?” question: I think we’ll skip Thanksgiving this year.”

It was then I began a journey that would forever change my life.  I discovered that thanksgiving isn’t a day, it is a discipline.  I came across some happiness research that recommended the practice of writing down one thing every day for which you are truly thankful and posting it where it can be seen throughout the day.   I began the practice, with low expectations.  By Thanksgiving, it was working. I spent the holiday with my best friend’s family and friends. I found myself deeply thankful for the sister I never realized I had.  My brokenness was healing.  I began to see beauty around me.  I carried the practice through the end of the year.  By January I was a new person. Signs of new life were apparent and my colleagues began to ask why.

It has become my practice to spend the last two months of the year sharing my grateful posts on Facebook.  It keeps me grounded through the busyness of the holidays, connects me to others who share the practice in November, and prepares me for the New Year.  This year I almost bailed on Facebook in December because I became overwhelmed by the resurgence of negativity.  Suddenly the gratefulness had all ended! No one would care if I didn’t post past November this year - or notice if I just stopped, right? That night I received two separate messages from far away friends.  “The gratitude is contagious” and “The grateful posts encourage me.”  Rejoice in the Lord always. Even when Facebook is negative? Especially then.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his faithful love lasts forever.” (Psalm 136:1) Over and over in Scripture God tells us to give thanks.  Why? It is obvious that He deserves our praise; but the second half of the verse provides a clue to the lesson my journey is teaching me. Give thanks because it is good for you.  Give thanks because it lifts your heart toward Him and, in doing so, breaks open the division between Heaven and Earth. Giving thanks gives us eyes to see Him in the world around us and arms that are open to His embrace. A grateful heart is a gift from our Creator.  A grateful heart is one that beats in time with His.  When that happens our broken hearts sing and others are invited to sing along.

Where might your journey of gratitude take you and whom could you invite along?